Guesses undermine mutual trust

Updated: 2011-11-03 14:31


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BEIJING-- China's readiness to help the debt-ridden EU out of its quagmire has been unjustly politicized, as some Europeans fear China's assistance would come in exchange for EU political concessions on thorny issues.

The prejudicial assumption exaggerates China's pragmatism in international economic affairs and reflects EU mistrust with its strategic partner.

However, even if the debt crisis had not happened and the EU had not sought Chinese help, China would never stop demanding that the EU abandon its obsolete mentality and take a more open-minded approach on issues of currency disputes, high-tech export restrictions, arms sales embargo and human rights censure.

Simply put, China's goodwill deserves fair treatment from the EU.

China has reiterated its confidence in the EU to ride out its hardships and uphold the spirit of partnership with China. Yet the SOS sent by the 27-nation bloc has absurdly made its domestic audiences uncomfortable.

In response to criticism within the EU, Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker told German public broadcaster ARD last week that "this will not take place in the form of a tight political negotiation -- assuming that of China invests, we have to give China something back."

It is becoming increasingly prominent that the issue of market economy status, which is, to a certain extent, a result of the lingering "Cold War" mentality, has become the EU's invisible bargaining chip.

Since the beginning, the notion of a non-market economy was coined by Western countries as the economic system implemented by a communist government, which underscores its strong ideological color.

The non-market economy status has long overstated export countries' production costs and dumping margins and gives exporters unfair trade disadvantages.

When China entered the World Trade Organization (WTO) 10 years ago, it was the only country among the 147 members to stay on the waiting list of the market economy countries. China has been persistently moving to loosen the state interference of the economy and to rectify the obsolete system impeding the fair play between state and private business, domestic and foreign-invested companies.

While the EU refused to do China a favor, saying China failed to meet technical criteria, it intentionally neglected the fact that a handful of other countries, including some EU nations that have been recognized by EU as full market economies, also fail to meet the standards. There is also the example of the EU recognizing a European country's market economy status even though it so far has not joined the WTO, which is apparently out of the normal practice.

These facts reflect the EU's selective standards toward different nations, which casts a shadow over its political integrity.

Even so, the non-market economy status has not dampened China-EU trade ties. On the contrary, China is the EU's second largest trading partner, and the EU is China's biggest overseas market.

It is not expected that granting China the full market economy status will be a tremendous blessing for China, because the anti-dumping duties cover a very meager share of Chinese exports to Europe. Also, it wouldn't be a panacea for all the trade frictions between the two sides. Worse-case scenario, China will automatically gain full market economy status by 2016, according to WTO rules.

To recognize China's status as early as possible could be viewed as a manifestation of the EU's strategic trust with China and its political sincerity, wisdom and vision to expand bilateral relations. Otherwise, the one-sided trust cannot persist.

Admittedly, political reciprocity is what China pursues at the international negotiating table. But it is not the case on the issue of market economy status, as well as other thorny issues between the two sides.

Smooth and balanced China-EU economic and trade ties are conducive to restoring the world's economic recovery and promoting long-term prosperity.

It is time for the EU and China to share the difficulties at this critical moment that offers a chance for the two sides to turn hardships into hopes and deepen their long-cherished mutual trust.